Corel Paint Shop Pro 9.0 review: Corel Paint Shop Pro 9.0

Corel Paint Shop Pro 9.0

Susan Glinert Stevens

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4 min read

Version 9.0 of Corel Paint Shop Pro adds some convenient tricks to help maximize the main work space, such as roll-away palettes and the ability to minimize open images to tabs. The most important interface addition is the new History palette, which tracks the actions you perform on the active image. The palette lets you undo and redo commands, making it easy to experiment. Unlike in Photoshop, you can undo a single command without affecting any subsequent entries in the list. What's more, the entire history can be exported to a script and subsequently applied to other images.


Corel Paint Shop Pro 9.0

The Good

Great value; excellent digital image tools; decent Web graphics and vector-drawing tools; terrific documentation.

The Bad

Scripts are difficult to edit; no CMYK support; no panorama-stitching function.

The Bottom Line

A very capable image-editing program at a reasonable price.
It's hard to imagine that Paint Shop Pro started out as an inexpensive shareware program. Although it's no longer shareware, its feature set has outpaced the program's still reasonable $119 price tag. Recently purchased by Corel, Paint Shop Pro is a competent image editor; it has an abundance of tools for pixel editing, along with a moderate crop of functions for vector drawing and Web graphics. Although it's often billed as a low-budget Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro has some features not found in Adobe's higher-priced software. For novice and enthusiast photographers who want satisfactory editing features without paying a premium, Corel's Paint Shop Pro may be the better choice. Although we use Photoshop almost daily for graphic design jobs, we would consider using Corel Paint Shop Pro 9.0 to tweak our digital photos. If you are looking for a capable image editor with a modest price tag, we highly recommend it.

The new History palette makes experimentation easy; you can undo and redo commands as much as you like.

Also new is the Mixer palette, which emulates the color-mixing mechanics of a real brush and palette. Add dabs of color to the palette surface, swirl them around, and select the exact color you want. The palette was designed to work with Corel's new natural media tools, simulating the tactile experience of analog art without the messy cleanup.

Corel Paint Shop Pro's photo-correction features are among its greatest strengths, containing noteworthy touches you won't find elsewhere. For example, the Automatic Color Balance filter has a slider to adjust for lighting temperature: incandescent, fluorescent, daylight, or anything in between. You can process your photos manually or take advantage of the automatic commands in the Enhance Photo menu. Photographers who use raw formats (unprocessed data from your camera's CCD) will be happy to learn that Paint Shop Pro 9.0 can preprocess and open these images.

Paint Shop Pro's automatic photo enhancements are handy for instantly touching up digital photos.

Paint Shop Pro has several filters for correcting various lens distortions--barrel, fish-eye, and pincushion--plus a chromatic aberration filter for removing the colored fringing often seen on sharply contrasting edges. The excellent noise-removal tool gave us better results than any comparable tool we've seen in an image-editing program to date. Also, Paint Shop's Clarify filter improved murky underwater pictures. In addition, each filter shows a large preview window so that you can fiddle with pertinent adjustment settings.

With only a few minor tweaks, Paint Shop's Camera Noise Removal tool noticeably improved our image.

On the downside, Paint Shop's Flash Fill and Backlighting filters, meant to correct under- and overexposed areas (respectively) in your digital images, were disappointing. There just weren't enough controls to make these filters work well; Photoshop still triumphs in the exposure correction department.

Although Paint Shop Pro isn't going to replace Corel Painter any time soon, the program's new Art Media tools are fun to use. The new Mixer palette lets you experiment with paper textures and blended colors, and the brushes themselves--chalk, pastel, crayon, oil, and marker--work fairly well; however, taking full advantage of the Art Media tools requires a pressure-sensitive graphics tablet. (Wacom is the gold standard here.) The tools were moderately responsive and suitable for adding realistic artwork to our image. However, if you are serious about art media, we suggest that you upgrade to Corel Painter.

Use the new Art Media tools to sketch and paint. A pressure-sensitive tablet is a must to make the most of them.

Paint Shop Pro doesn't begin and end with image editing; there are a few tools for creating such vector graphics as lines, shapes, and text. These features can come in handy when you need a few lines, boxes, or stars to enhance your photo. If you need to make quick Web buttons, Paint Shop also has the ability to create image maps, rollover buttons, and image slices.

Corel's customer support is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CT, Monday through Friday. This service is free but not toll-free, and options to purchase priority support are available on Corel's Web site, which includes 24-hour online support and hosts extensive newsgroups where you can ask questions and hopefully get answers from other users. In addition, Paint Shop Pro's manual is outstanding. It includes detailed explanations for every tool, plus informative sidebars and tidbits that will help you better understand the program and image editing in general.


Corel Paint Shop Pro 9.0

Score Breakdown

Setup 7Features 7Performance 6Support 7